How to format a micro SD card for Android?

What is a Micro SD Card?

A micro SD card, also known as a microSD card, is a tiny memory card that is often used for extra storage in devices like cameras, GPS devices, mobile phones, and tablets. The micro SD card is about the size of a fingernail and weighs less than half a gram. It connects to devices using a microSD card slot and can hold anywhere from a few megabytes to hundreds of gigabytes of data.

Some key things to know about micro SD cards:

  • Physical size: 15 x 11 x 1 mm (microSD), 15 x 11 x 0.7 mm (microSDHC), 11 x 15 x 1 mm (microSDXC)
  • Storage capacity: Up to 2TB
  • Interface: Uses SD card standard
  • File system: Can be formatted with FAT32, exFAT, ext2/3/4
  • Speed: Varies, UHS-I interface allows up to 104 MB/s transfer speed
  • Uses: Extra storage for mobile devices like phones, tablets, cameras, handheld game consoles, etc.

So in summary, the micro SD card is a tiny removable flash memory card used for adding more storage space to devices like smartphones and cameras. The small size makes it perfect for mobile devices.

Why Format a Micro SD Card for Android?

There are a few key reasons you may want to format a brand new or previously used micro SD card when setting it up for use in an Android device:

  • To erase all data from a used card – Formatting wipes all existing files/data so you start fresh.
  • To correct errors or corruption – If the card is having performance issues, formatting can help wipe corrupted data.
  • To switch file systems – Android needs specific file systems like FAT32 or exFAT.
  • To optimize performance – Formatting helps set the card up to run efficiently in your Android device.
  • To partition the card – You may want to split into partitions, which requires formatting.
  • To securely erase sensitive data – Formatting cleans the card of any private/sensitive files you don’t want peopled accessing.

So in summary, formatting prepares the micro SD card to work properly in your Android phone or tablet. The process erases old data, corrects errors, partitions it if needed, and configures the file system.

How to Format a Micro SD Card for Android

There are a couple different ways you can format a micro SD card to use it with an Android device. Here are the main methods:

Using Your Computer

The easiest way for most users is to use a Windows PC or Mac to format the card:

  1. Insert the micro SD card into your computer’s SD card reader using an adapter.
  2. Open My Computer / This PC and locate the micro SD card drive.
  3. Right click on the drive and choose Format.
  4. In the Format window:
    • Choose FAT32 or exFAT file system.
    • Give the drive a name (optional).
    • Check the Quick Format box.
    • Click Start to begin formatting.
  5. Allow the format process to finish, which should only take a couple minutes.
  6. Remove the micro SD card and insert it into your Android device.

That’s it! The card will now be formatted properly for use in your Android smartphone or tablet.

Using Android’s Settings

You can also format a micro SD card right from your Android device without a computer. Here’s how:

  1. Insert the micro SD card into your Android device’s micro SD slot.
  2. Launch the Settings app.
  3. Tap Storage & USB.
  4. Select your SD card’s name.
  5. Tap Format.
    • You may need to tap Format as internal if you want to format as internal storage.
    • Or tap Format as portable for use as removable storage.
  6. Tap Erase & Format.
  7. Confirm by tapping Format again.
  8. Allow the formatting process to complete.

The micro SD card will now be formatted and ready to use in your device.

Using a Third-Party App

There are also some good third-party apps on Google Play that provide advanced formatting options. Here are some top apps to try:

  • SD Card Formatter – Popular app with options for FAT32, exFAT, EXT4.
  • SD Card Formatter for Android – Format as internal or portable storage.
  • MiniTool Mobile Recovery – Provides secure erase as well as format options.
  • AweSDCardFormatter – Straightforward formatter with FAT & exFAT systems.

The main steps are similar:

  1. Install and open the app.
  2. Select the micro SD card.
  3. Choose formatting options like file system.
  4. Tap format to begin process.
  5. Allow formatting to fully complete.
  6. The card can now be used in your Android device.

These third-party apps provide a few extra conveniences and options for power users. But the basic Windows or Android formatting process works for most people’s needs.

What File System to Use

When formatting a micro SD card for Android, you’ll need to choose which file system to format it with. The main options compatible with Android include:


This is the most compatible file system for Android. Almost every Android device supports the FAT32 file system. Key things to know:

  • Max file size of 4GB for individual files.
  • Good for cards 32GB or smaller in capacity.
  • Compatible with all versions of Android.


This file system removes limits on file sizes and supports larger cards:

  • No max file size limit.
  • Supports cards larger than 32GB.
  • But not compatible with older Android versions (pre-3.0).

So unless you need huge file sizes over 4GB, FAT32 is generally the best file system option for maximum Android compatibility. But if you have a newer Android phone and a large capacity micro SD card, exFAT may make more sense.


This is used to format as internal/adoptable storage rather than portable:

  • Treats the SD card as internal storage for apps/data.
  • Reformats your card so it won’t work in other devices.

EXT4 is only used for adoptable storage, which most users don’t need. So you’ll generally want FAT32 or exFAT.

In summary, for most users FAT32 will be the best file system for formatting micro SD cards to use as portable storage in Android devices. But EXFAT can be helpful for larger capacity cards.

Formatting microSD Card as Internal Storage

Android also gives you the option to format your micro SD card as internal storage rather than portable storage. Here’s an overview:

  • Adoptable storage – Makes card act like internal storage.
  • Apps and data can be stored directly on card.
  • But card can only be read by that device after adopted.
  • Requires reformatting the card with EXT4 file system.
  • Option found under Android’s Storage settings.

The steps to format as internal storage:

  1. Insert the microSD card into your phone.
  2. Go to Settings > Storage.
  3. Select your SD card.
  4. Tap option to use as internal storage.
  5. Confirm formatting when prompted.

The card can now be used as built-in storage. But this will prevent the card from working in other devices unless reformatted. Most users will want to use micro SD cards as portable storage instead. But adoptable storage can be helpful if you have a phone with very limited onboard storage and need more room for apps.

Portable vs Internal Storage

To summarize the key differences:

Portable Storage (Recommended):

  • Files and data stored directly on the microSD card.
  • Can be removed and used in other devices.
  • Requires FAT32 or exFAT file system.
  • Use for media, documents, backups.

Internal / Adoptable Storage:

  • Card formatted as internal storage for that device.
  • Apps and app data stored on card.
  • Can’t easily be used in other devices.
  • Reformats card to EXT4 file system.
  • Helpful to add more storage for apps.

For most users, portable storage makes the micro SD card much more versatile for storing your files and media. But adoptable storage can help in certain cases if you need more internal storage for apps.

Checking and Managing Format Progress

When you begin the formatting process, either through your computer or Android device, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Check the estimated time – Formatting a micro SD card can take several minutes depending on capacity and options.
  • Don’t remove card during format – Wait for process to complete before ejecting the card.
  • Watch for errors – If any error message pops up, try formatting again or use a different method.
  • Look for the final confirmation – Most formatting tools will give a final “format complete” message when done.
  • Reinsert card into Android device – After formatting, put the micro SD card back into your phone to start using it.
  • Check that it’s recognized – Make sure your phone sees the card and storage space.
  • Try transferring a file – Copy a photo to the card to verify it’s working properly.

Following these tips will help ensure the formatting completed smoothly and your micro SD card is ready to use in your Android device as extra storage space for apps, photos, videos, and other files you want.

Troubleshooting Format Issues

In some cases, you may encounter issues trying to format your micro SD card properly. Here are some troubleshooting tips if you have problems:

Card Not Recognized on Computer

If your computer won’t detect the SD card, try these steps:

  • Reinsert the card and restart the PC.
  • Try a different SD card adapter/reader if available.
  • Inspect card for physical damage or dirt in slot.
  • Update USB and card reader drivers in Windows.
  • Try on a different computer if possible.

Android Unable to Mount Card

If your Android device detects but can’t mount the SD card, try:

  • Remove and reinsert the card.
  • Reboot your Android device.
  • Check if card works in a PC.
  • Clear the app cache for the Storage settings.
  • Try a different micro SD card if available.

Error Formatting Card

If you get errors trying to format, these steps may help:

  • Try a different file system like FAT32 or exFAT.
  • Format using a PC instead of phone.
  • Use a third-party formatting app.
  • Check for dirt/damage on the SD card.
  • Try inserting in a different Android device.
  • Contact manufacturer if under warranty.

SD Card Not Detected After Formatting

If your device can’t see the card after formatting, do this:

  • Try reinserting and rebooting device.
  • Connect it to a PC to check formatting.
  • Look for damage to card’s pins or slot.
  • Double check you formatted with compatible file system.
  • Try reformatting on computer instead.

Following the troubleshooting tips should help diagnose and fix any issues formatting your micro SD card for use in Android. Reach out to the card manufacturer for help if needed.

FAQs about Formatting SD Cards for Android

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about getting micro SD cards ready to use with Android devices:

Does Android format SD cards differently?

Not really – Android uses the standard FAT32 or exFAT file systems that will work with Windows/Mac too. The only difference is Android can also format as adoptable/internal storage using EXT4.

How long does it take to format a 64GB SD card?

Formatting a 64GB micro SD card takes 5-10 minutes typically. Larger 128+ GB cards can take 15+ minutes. The process may be a bit faster on Android compared to PC formatting.

What is the maximum SD card size for Android?

Most Android devices support up to 2TB capacity micro SD cards. Though specific phone models may have lower limits around 512GB. Cards larger than 32GB may require exFAT instead of FAT32.

Can you use same SD card for Android and camera?

Yes, you can use the same micro SD card for both your Android device and a digital camera. Just be sure to reformat it before switching between devices for maximum compatibility.

Does formatting SD card delete everything?

Yes, formatting will delete all data on the card. So be sure to backup any photos or files you want to keep before formatting. Then you can transfer the files back after formatting.

How often should you format SD card Android?

You really only need to format a micro SD card the very first time you use it in Android. After that, formatting is only needed if you notice performance issues or want to erase all data before selling/transferring the card.


Formatting a micro SD card to use as adoptable or portable storage in an Android device is a quick and straightforward process. We covered the key steps to format cards using either a Windows/Mac computer or your Android phone’s settings. In most cases, FAT32 is the best file system option for maximum compatibility. But you can also use exFAT for larger cards, or EXT4 if you want the card to act as internal storage. Following the tips in this guide will ensure your micro SD card is properly formatted and ready to use in any Android smartphone or tablet.